Jim Ruppert: Olympic pole vaulter, Ireland coach have connection to central Illinois

Sacred Heart-Griffin High School graduate Ryan Held already has made the Springfield area proud by winning a swimming gold medal in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and Carlinville’s Kelsey Card begins her quest Monday night for a medal in the women’s discus.

But there are two other Springfield-area connections in track and field at the Games.

Sandi Morris, whose hometown is Greenville, South Carolina, will compete in the women’s pole vault starting Tuesday.

Morris is the daughter of Harry and Kerry Morris and the granddaughter of Springfield’s Mike and Bonnie Jamison. Kerry Jamison Morris is a 1978 Springfield High graduate who was an excellent track athlete in high school.

Sandi Morris, 24, was the 2015 NCAA indoor pole vault champion at Arkansas and a semifinalist for the Bowerman Award, which is given each year to the top male collegiate athlete and to the top female collegiate athlete in track and field. She was a four-time first-team All-American, her first two years at North Carolina and her last two at Arkansas.

Kevin Ankrom, a 1986 graduate of Jacksonville High School, is Athletics Ireland High Performance Director. In his position Ankrom supervises the staff and coaches of the Irish Olympic track team. This is his second Olympics with the Irish team.

The Dublin, Ireland, resident placed sixth in the high jump in 1985 and third in 1986 at the state track meet.

Cassie Kuizin

Sacred Heart-Griffin graduate Cassie Kuizin recently was named one of three winners of the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Lea Plarski Award for her achievements on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

Kuizin spent the past two seasons playing softball at Heartland Community College and will attend Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, this fall.

She maintained a 4.0 grade-point average throughout her two years at Heartland and was named Academic All-American both her freshman and sophomore years. Outside of school and softball, she was actively involved with SOAR, a Special Olympics organization that supports individuals with disabilities by organizing and overseeing recreational activities. Kuizin also completed an internship with Crisis Nursery in Bloomington, volunteered with PATH crisis center and worked with several middle school softball teams throughout the area.

The Lea Plarski Award was created in 1995 and is presented annually to an NJCAA student-athlete who demonstrates sportsmanship, leadership, community service, academic excellence and athletic ability.

Seth Parkinson

Rochester’s Seth Parkinson was one of 13 players from a six-state area representing Team USA/Midwest at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.

The American Elite Baseball Championship, which runs Aug. 10 through Sunday, features teams from the 15 different regions across the country.

Parkinson is entering seventh grade at Rochester Junior High, and he spends his summers playing for the St. Louis Gamers Baseball Academy.

Jenna Upchurch

Locally trained dressage rider Jenna Upchurch and her horse won two individual gold medals and team silver at the North American championship competition for young riders.

Upchurch, 18, hails from Chesterfield, Missouri, but travels to StarWest in New Berlin to ride under the direction of Martin Kuhn. She won gold in the individual junior rider test as well as in the freestyle, a ride set to music. She and three other riders from Missouri competed together to win team silver.

The North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, held July 26-31 in Parker, Colorado., is the premier equestrian competition for riders ages 14-21 in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Competitors vie for team and individual medals in the disciplines of dressage, para-dressage, show jumping, eventing, reining and endurance.

Rosemary Leistner

Rosemary Leach Leistner recently turned 76, and she celebrated by shooting her age in the Bunn Park Women’s League.

She had 38 on the front nine and 38 on the back nine, and her husband Bob says, “All putts are putted to the bottom of the cup. No gimmes.”

Zach Barnhart

Springfield High graduate Zach Barnhart finished with a .333 batting average, six stolen bases and seven runs batted in for the Dubois County Bombers in the Ohio Valley Summer Collegiate Baseball League.

Barnhart spent the 2015 season at Lincoln Land Community College and was a red-shirt member of the Illinois State baseball last spring.


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